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Ann Arbor native to bring Life is Good store to Main St.

Saline Spanish teacher Mark Messmore took an indirect route into the clothing retail business, but the downtown Ann Arbor resident and business owner will have a pretty direct path from his loft to the new Life is Good shop he's opening below it. After his computer consultation business, MMSC Consultants started veering into retail, he got the bug to get deeper into the business, which led him to the Life is Good franchise. 
 
"Life is Good is a good fit for me because the brand focuses on the power of optimism," says Messmore. "The power of optimism is limitless; that message resonates with me, and I believe it represents the Ann Arbor community well."
 
Messmore also believes the merchandise will appeal to the Ann Arbor market with it's wide range of clothing meant for everyone from outdoorsy folks to businesspeople. The Life is Good Store will open in a portion of Seyfried Jewelers' former home, a neighborhood close to the local Messmore's heart. 
 
"Certainly, I am sad to see Seyfried Jewelers leave," he says. "My mom went to high school and was best friends with Pam Seyfried, and they spent their weekends and holiday vacations in the back room of Seyfried Jewelers wrapping presents and helping at the store some 40 years ago."
 
Messmore will take control of the 900 square foot Main St. space on Jan. 1 and hopes to be open for business in March. 
 
Source: Mark Messmore, Life is Good
Writer: Natalie Burg

School of Rock to open on Jackson Rd.

Ann Arbor has no lack of interest in the arts and creative expression. That's exactly why entrepreneur Dianna Wilson decided opening her own School of Rock business was a great fit for the area. 
 
"[I] went to a couple operating School of Rock locations and was hooked," Wilson says. "I enjoy kids and music. To be able to watch kids develop and be proud of themselves is awesome."  
 
The new business is set to open in January in a 2,400 square foot location at 6101 Jackson Rd. Originally developed as an office building, Wilson says the segmented layout made it perfect for music lessons. The location is also ideal, she adds, for parents who may need to run errands during their kids' lessons at the many nearby retail stores. 
 
"School of Rock is a performance-based program," Wilson says. "It's not just taking lessons; they are learning to perform. The national exposure of the company offers some awesome and unique opportunities for students."
 
As the business gets established locally, those opportunities will include recording their work. A planned recording studio in the space will give kids the chance to learn the technical side of recording as well. 
 
School of Rock will open with a staff of seven. Wilson hopes to increase her number of employees as enrollment numbers grow. The exact dates for opening, enrollment and an open house will soon be available on the business' Facebook page. 

Source: Dianna Wilson, School of Rock
Writer: Natalie Burg

Curated vintage shop Dear Golden to grow into Fourth Ave. storefront

Women in Ann Arbor will soon have a new way to feel lovely. The curated vintage shop Dear Golden is planning to open on Fourth Ave. in  downtown early next year with garments from the 1920s to 1970s personally selected by owner Lauren Naimola for modern women. 

"Each garment is selected for it's fashion relevancy and overall quality," she says. "I have built a great customer base in the US as well as other countries."

Dear Golden was born online five years ago, and Naimola operated the shop from her home until it grew into a business that required its own space. About two years ago, she moved into an appointment-only location in Ypsilanti, but her continued growth only allowed that model to work for so long. 

"The shop, even by appointment only seemed to attract attention and I started wanting to be able to be open to the public simply because there seemed to be a desire for that," says Naimola. "Fourth Ave. is such a great spot, it is situated nicely between the State St. area and the Main St. area and seems like one of the last parts of downtown that could foster new businesses. When I saw Today Clothing was there I knew that my shop would fit in nicely." 

Naimola will be transitioning into the Fourth Ave. space over the next few months with an eye on opening in March of 2014. Along with the new location and regular hours, Dear Golden will feature a small number of new clothing by small designers selected to complement her vintage offerings. 

Moving to the 1,400 square foot space while continuing her online sales will prompt Naimola to expand from a one-woman operation to a business with staff. She anticipates adding two to three employees over the next year as Dear Golden gets established in its new space. 

Source: Lauren Naimola, Dear Golden
Writer: Natalie Burg

Barre Bee Fit opening new studio in Plymouth Road Plaza

After spending ten years in the corporate world, Ann Arbor native Adrianne Madias was looking for a more satisfying career. She found it when she met some women in Chicago who were starting a new fitness business, Barre Bee Fit
 
"I was already doing to a ballet barre class at the time. It's very addictive and very effective," says Madias, who opened the city's first Barre Bee Fit on E. Washington in 2011. "They had just opened the year prior, and we decided to use Ann Arbor as a test market. We've expanded to about ten different locations now."
 
Ann Arbor will soon be added to that list of growing Barre Bee Fit locations a second time, when Madias opens a new location in the Plymouth Road Retail Plaza, which opened with names like Starbucks, Big Salad and DFCU Financial in March. The 2,500 square foot studio will take up about a third of the development's second floor.
 
"I noticed there's not anywhere for women, or anyone, to get a great workout on this side of town," Madias says. It's lacking in group fitness. When I saw the space being built, I knew immediately it was where I wanted to open another location." 
 
Barre Bee Fit is a workout concept that combines Pilates, dance and yoga with a ballet barre-based workout. New to the Plymouth Rd. location will be a high tech audio and lighting system that Madias says will turn the 60-minute workout into an experience. Music and lighting will automatically ebb and flow with the progression of the class. 
 
Madias is currently in the middle of building out the space and plans to open the new studio in January, and will soon announce a grand opening date. Initially, she plans to employ three to four instructors and two front desk employees.

Source: Adrianne Madias, Barre Bee Fit
Writer: Natalie Burg

Bella Gallery brings handmade gifts, fine art to downtown Chelsea

While not an artist herself, Kim Watkins has always loved the arts. Nudged on by her appreciate of handmade goods and support from her artist friends, she decided to get into the art businesses with her own shop, Bella Gallery. The fine art and homemade goods store opened in November in a second-floor space on W. Middle St. 
 
"Everything is handmade artistry work," Watkins says. "That is the requirement to be in the store, and it has just really spread like wildfire."
 
Watkins began by telling her artists friends about the store, and her troupe of artists has grown quickly since then. She now carries pottery, wood carvings, oil paintings, fiber art, watercolors and more. New artists, she says, are joining the mix every week. 
 
"It has been awesome," Watkins says of the community's reaction to Bella Gallery thus far. "I want to be known as a gift destination and that is what is happening. We have stuff for everyone too, from thing for babies and children to wall art." 
 
Watkins now manages the store herself, with help from her neighboring entrepreneur, Deborah Coy of The Attic Boutique. She hopes to eventually grow into a larger, first-floor storefront and continue to showcase local artists. 

Source: Kim Watkins, Bella Gallery
Writer: Natalie Burg

Love of history leads to new Milan antiques and restoration shop

A love of history has been a part of Cassandra Smith's family for generations. Her great-grandmother was a historical scrapbooker, and her grandfather was also a history buff. True to her family heritage, Smith became a social studies teacher with a history minor, and learned to restore historic furniture from her mother about 20 years ago. Now, all of that family knowledge and years of practice are available to everyone through her new shop, C.K. Antiques and Restoration in downtown Milan. 
 
"We've always done restoration for family and friends," Smith says. "Over the last ten years I've been considering opening my own store, so I rented a booth out at the Livingston Antiques Mall, and the bug hit me. So here I am."
 
C.K. Antiques and Restoration opened just in time for the holiday shopping season on Nov. 29. The 2,400 square foot unit gives her room for a 1,000 square foot showroom, as well as space to restore her pieces. Smith both accepts furniture from customers to be restored, as well as finds her own pieces to restore and resell. 
 
An Ypsilanti resident, Smith says Milan was the perfect location to open her shop, with a quaint downtown and a community in need of an antiques store. 
 
"The town has been so welcoming and encouraging," Smith says. "A lot of them are excited that we're here. The response has been really positive." 
 
Smith describes her taste as broad and eclectic, offering shoppers a wide variety of antique items from various time periods. Though she is particularly fond of 19th century furniture, she say customers will find any thing old and unusual that catches her eye in the store. 
 
Source: Cassandra Smith, C.K. Antiques and Restoration
Writer: Natalie Burg

Ypsi eyes pop-up retail concept for downtown revitalization

Detroit has CityLoft and The Detroit Shoppe; Fort Wayne has HollyPop. Could Ypsilanti be the next city to add its name to a growing list of places featuring pop up retail locations? According to Ypsilanti DDA Director Tim Colbeck, if the answer turns out to be yes, it'll be a win for a variety of community stakeholders. 
 
"We're all kind of approaching it from different ends on the same spectrum," says Colbeck. "At the DDA, we're looking at it as getting rid of some downtown vacancies, and the city is seeing how it will effect their revenues and job creation. The SBTDC (Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center) are looking at it because they have people coming to them wanting to start businesses."
 
Though a specific location and official commitments are yet to fall into place, talks have been underway regarding the possibility of bringing pop-up retail to downtown Ypsi. The concept could take several forms, says Colbeck, from a temporary seasonal venue for retailers to a permanent location rotating small businesses through on short term leases. 
 
A number of downtown landlords have been contacted as possible locations for pop-up location, and Colbeck says some have expressed general interest in the idea. The ability to get a renter into some of the long-vacant spaces permanently, or even to showcase the space is attractive to many property owners. 
 
"It's just another tool in the toolbox that we think could be really useful," says Colbeck. "It' been done in other communities to real success."
 
For now, the DDA, City of Ypsilanti and SBTDC will continue to work out such details as zoning, permitting and occupancy rules to decide if the pop-up concept is viable and to narrow down a potential location. 

Source: Tim Colbeck, Ypsilanti DDA
Writer: Natalie Burg

Detroit-area event planner Blumz expands into Ann Arbor

With locations in Detroit and Ferndale, Blumz by JR Designs had been getting more and more Ann Arbor-area requests for work, so they made the choice to better serve those clients with a brand new store. On Nov. 1, Blumz opened their 1,000 square foot Avis Dr. location. According to co-owner Jerome Raska, the office complex environment gives clients easy access to their services with plenty of convenient parking. 
 
The full service event company offering clients as much or as little assistance as they need to coordinate their events with, as Raska says, "maximum 'wow' factor.
 
"Another thing our clients like about us is we are willing to provide ideas for any budget," he says. "Keeping in mind you can never get a Lexus for the price of and Focus, as professionals we are capable of giving you the most bang for the buck."
 
The new Ann Arbor Blumz is currently by appointment only, staffed by current employees of the business. Raska says they are taking their entrance into the area slowly, and are looking forward to introducing themselves to the business community.
 

Source: Jerome Raska, Blumz by JR Designs
Writer: Natalie Burg

Black Pearl expansion to add events, up to 50 seats for diners

A perennial winner of Taste of Ann Arbor awards including "Best Entrée" and "Best of Show," it's no stretch to say Ann Arbor loves The Black Pearl. Beginning in early 2014, more diners will be able to get more of the food they crave as The Black Pearl expands by 50 percent, adding room for 40 to 50 new seats. 
 
"We do get a lot of calls for parties, and we're a little too small to accommodate more than 50 people without closing for the event," says The Black Pearl Bar Manager Matthew Pietryga. "It's not just going to be set up for private functions though, but also for busy nights, especially in the summer." 
 
The expansion will be into half of the former Seyfried Jewelers location. According to Pietryga, the bar considered expanding into the entire space, but was hesitant to over-expand. When the option became available to grow into half of the space, it became the perfect opportunity. 
 
"Otherwise we may have been a little oversized. The bigger you are doesn't mean the more people will come," says Pietryga. "Right now, everything is good; business is up from last year, which is good. But every few months or so there is more competition."
 
The new space in The Black Pearl will be used both for overflow and for private parties, and while it will have a similar feel to the main restaurant, it will have slightly different decor and amenities, including carpeting, different tables and a multi-media center for presentations and events. 
 
Pietryga says work on the space will begin in January. They hope to have work completed within  a couple of months, but have an April goal set to be ready in preparation for graduation season. With the extra diners Pietryga estimates three to four additional servers will be added to the staff. 
 
Source: Matthew Pietryga, The Black Pearl
Writer: Natalie Burg

Ginger Deli plans fresh take on Vietnamese food

Anyone used to eating Vietnamese food in a hole-in-the-wall type environment will soon get to experience the cuisine in a whole new light. The Ginger Deli plans to open on E. Liberty in the first or second week of January with a focus on chic design and fresh ingredients that aims to change perceptions and delight Ann Arbor eaters. 
 
"The Ginger Deli is an idea I have wanted to do for maybe five years," says owner Te Phan, who also owns Ann Arbor's Chair Cover Express. "The food will be more toward Vietnamese cooking because Vietnamese food is influenced by the French. If you're going to be influenced by any kind of food, French is a good place to start."
 
Fresh herbs will be a primary feature of the Ginger Deli cuisine, including basil, mint, cilantro and bean sprouts, which Phan says not only adds great flavor to the food, but balances out the dishes with health benefits. 
 
Phan's career began in industrial design, creating concept cars for Ford. He's now applying his design principles to make attractive, functional street food in downtown Ann Arbor. His designs will allow passersby to enjoy some hot soup on the go in convenient, disposable packaging.
 
"I want to put the value and money first in food and second into the packaging, where it will be marketing vehicle for the food," says Phan. "Instead of putting a lot of money in creating a environments an ambiance and tables, I want to be able to keep the price affordable for students and young professionals."
 
The approximately 200-foot Ginger Deli storefront will be take-out only, but will provide heated outdoor counter space under a canopy for diners on the go. Phan hopes to build on the concept of new neighbor Le Dog to create a hub for street food on Liberty. 
 
Ginger Deli will actually be a two-part operation, with about two kitchen staffers managing a kitchen two blocks away and two employees serving customers from the storefront. Phan hopes to see the concept grow into multiple locations in Ann Arbor, and plans to keep the community he loves involved and benefitting from his business as it grows. 

Sourc: Te Phan, Ginger Deli
Writer: Natalie Burg

Juicy Kitchen plans to expand catering part of growing biz

There is not much Juicy Kitchen Cafe doesn't do in the food business these days.

"We still do catering," says Susan Todoroff, owner of Juicy Kitchen Cafe. "We still do home-prepared meals except we don’t deliver them anymore. Our customers come and pick them up."

From Juicy Kitchen Cafe's new retail location on 1506 N. Maple Road that it has spent 2013 establishing. The Ann Arbor-based company went from no one knowing there any businesses in the forlorn strip mall to a vibrant business with a core group of regulars that eat there multiple times week.

"(Opening the cafe) was really more of a lifestyle choice than a business decision for me," Todoroff says. "I want to wait on the people I am cooking for."

That has allowed Juicy Kitchen Cafe to grow to a core team of four full-timers and a few part-time employees. The retail operation now makes up about two thirds of the company's revenue. Prepared meals make up another 20-some percent with catering taking up the rest.

"I want to grow the catering side of the business," Todoroff says.

Source: Susan Todoroff, owner of Juicy Kitchen
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Nankin Hobby to bring crafts and jobs to Washtenaw Ave. by the holidays

Nankin Hobby is a family business now in its third generation, and the business' development has been as gradual and organic as families often grow. Beginning as as Westland hardware store, co-owner Chris Wrigley's grandparents added hobby supplies to the mix in the 1960. About seven years ago, Wrigley opened a second location of the business in Farmington with an exclusive focus on hobbies. Now, the family is preparing to grow again with the opening of Nankin Hobby on Washtenaw Ave. in Ypsilanti. 

"We wanted to expand and we wanted to go out west," says Wrigley. "Ypsi and Ann Arbor are both locations that are getting bigger and bigger, and there is only one hobby shop that I know of in either. It's an untapped resource."

The 6,800 square foot Nankin Hobby store began cosmetic renovations in September and now the business is busy stocking shelves and preparing to open. Wrigley hopes to be open in a couple of weeks, in time to cater to holiday shoppers. The store will carry a variety of remote control gadgets, model-building and craft supplies.

Wrigley and co-owners Robert Rates and Gary Wrigley plan to continue the growth of the business with additional locations, but Wrigley says they're in no rush to expand too quickly. 

"We're just going one step at a time," he says. "But we do look to be opening more locations in the future."

Nankin Hobby will open with a staff of four to five employees.

Source: Chris Wrigley, Nankin Hobby
Writer: Natalie Burg

Book enthusiasts open Black Stone Bookstore as literary hub for Ypsilanti

Carlos Franklin and Kip Johnson love books. Both men were finding ways to sell books independently before coming together to open Black Stone Bookstore & Cultural Center in Ypsilanti. 

"I like to read and I always feel like when you read something really good, you always want to share it with your friends," says Franklin. 

More than giving the Ypsilanti community a place to buy books, Franklin says the aim of Black Stone Bookstore is to give locals a place to celebrate reading, learning and sharing. The 800 square foot location includes an area to study and for events such as poetry readings and book clubs. 

"This is about creating something and being a motivation for others," Franklin says. "We have a bunch of barbershops and car washes here, but I wanted to do something different to build the community up."

Franklin says he'd like Black Stone to help Ypsilanti feel more like the college town it is. Though the shop is distinguishing itself as a destination for African American literature, the shop carries books representing all cultures, and Franklin says their intention is to reach out to everyone in the community. 

Black Stone Bookstore & Cultural Center opened at the beginning of Nov. with Johnson and Franklin on staff. They hope to grow the store to eventually include a full-service cafe and larger events space. 

Source: Carlos Franklin, Black Stone Bookstore and Cultural Center
Writer: Natalie Burg

Manchester adds $2.9M bridge project to recent rush of development

A much-needed $2.9 million rebuilding project on Manchester's Main Street Bridge is an exciting enough investment for the village, but as it comes on the heels of two other recent development projects, Manchester is set to look and feel like a rejuvenated community. 

"We have a number of projects that are moving foward," says Manchester Village Manager Jeff Wallace. "We're hoping they will make it attractive for people to come shop here and come visit."

The recently announced MDOT grant will replace the critical bridge at the center of downtown Manchester. Though the village has applied for the grant in previous years, deterioration that has caused the village to limit use of the key bridge gave the project urgency. Though the grant is approved for 2016, Wallace says he will appeal to the state for a 2015 start date, armed with an expedited construction schedule from their engineer. 

"[The bridge is] very important because river bisects the village through the middle," Wallace says. "It's important for transportation, but also health and safety, and economic commerce." 

The new bridge will follow a $750,000 streetscape improvement project last year, which resulted in new sidewalks, bump-outs, seating areas and LED streetlights in Manchester's downtown. After the streetscape, but before the bridge project, Mancheter has a $500,000 maintenance project scheduled for 2014 that will replace ramps to enable ADA accessibility in downtown intersections. 

Wallace says the village doesn't plan to end their revitalization efforts there. They are working with community partners to create a trail through the village, invest in the millpond and create a Safe Routes to Schools program. 

Source: Jeffery Wallace, Village of Manchester
Writer: Natalie Burg

GFS Marketplace celebrates opening of second area location

Ann Arbor's west side has become a destination for food shopping, and now GFS Marketplace is offering the community another option. The Gordon Food Service retailer opened earlier this month in a renovated retail space near the corner of Liberty and Stadium Blvd.
 
"We were just looking for a location that would make us convenient to additional customers and that happened to be a property that became available," says GFS Marketplace spokesperson Mark Dempsey. "It was an existing building that we could convert to our needs."
 
The 1,400 square foot building underwent a number of renovations, including opening the ceiling to expose wood dome trusses, facade improvements, new HVAC and lighting as well as a new receiving dock. 
 
Though GFS Marketplace sells restaurant quality foodservice products, Dempsey says the retailer is open to the general public without a membership. 
 
"Customers are enjoying the grand opening festivities," he says. "We've had some terrific events in the store since it’s opened. We’re having a lot of fun in Ann Arbor."
 
The Ann Arbor location is the second area GFS Marketplace store, joining a Carpenter Rd. outlet in Ypsilanti. About 35 employees work at the new store. 

Source: Mark Dempsey, GFS Marketplace
Writer: Natalie Burg
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